While you relax on this Thanksgiving Day, something to think about: It was clear from the last election results that this would not be your grandfather’s Solvang.
A new regime has brought new ideas about the town and its future. For some long-time residents, change is not optimal. There definitely is something to be said for the stability that comes with always having things in the same places they were yesterday.
But for others, the absence of change is like a lingering death. Everything stops moving, and even time seems to stand still.
All of which likely explains some of the outrage expressed about Solvang’s recent Fall Fest, a street fair that all but shut down some key businesses in the downtown core.
The event did what is was designed to do, attract and amuse about 15,000 people over the course of its three-day run. There were carnival rides, lively music and an array of vendors. But several business operators say it was not helpful to the village overall, in large part because it reduced their business, in some cases compelling at least one business owner to shut down due to lack of customers.
One of the biggest issues for unhappy business operators was that regular, in-city customers couldn’t access their stores, because streets were blocked off, or they couldn’t find a place to park on perimeter streets.
Fair enough, but in fact, Solvang residents should be accustomed to these sorts of interruptions, because except for hyper-active Santa Barbara, Solvang has probably the greatest number of special events per year. It seems as though something special is going on most weekends, and even without those big events, if the weather is nice — which it generally is — Solvang’s reputation as a terrific place to spend a Saturday or Sunday is world-renowned.
We have a well-rounded perspective on this issue, because every time there is a special event, and especially the ones that force the closing of local streets, we get a deluge of complaints.
That does not mean we couldn’t support the concept of a Fall Fest. But we do agree with local merchants who wondered why such an event — and one lasting three prime shopping days at that — would be held on downtown city streets. And by the way, the city streets were actually closed down for five days, making time for setting up.
There is an abundance of open spaces within easy walking distance of the city’s core. For example, what about the field behind the Mission? If it’s good enough for a post-holiday tree burn, it should to be good enough for a fair with rides, booths and other attractions.
Another fact is that not all of those 15,000 Fest-goers were out-of-town visitors. Local residents also were in the mix, and generally reported having a lot of fun.
Some merchants are threatening to close their stores and move to other communities, but that would be a mistake, both for the merchant and the city and its residents. Those businesses supply a steady stream of sale-tax revenues to the city. It’s money the city really can’t do without.
That suggests a new plan may be needed, one that keeps Solvang on the tourism map, but does so without damaging local businesses’ bottom lines — because taxes from those sales profits are what help keep the city’s funding mechanism in good working order. Every top-performing machine needs a tuneup now and then.
Meanwhile, enjoy your Thanksgiving — and give thanks for being able to live here.